Winningest high school basketball coaches Gary McKnight, Ed Azzam to return in 2020-21

Legendary high school basketball coaches Gary McKnight, left, and Ed Azzam.
High school basketball coaches Gary McKnight, left, and Ed Azzam plan to return to the bench for another season.
(Los Angeles Times)

Gary McKnight of Santa Ana Mater Dei and Ed Azzam of Westchester, the winningest high school basketball coaches in the Southern Section and City Section, respectively, each confirmed on Monday that they intended to coach during the 2020-21 school year despite uncertainty with COVID-19 issues.

McKnight, who started coaching at Mater Dei in 1983, is the winningest high school coach in California with a record of 1,161-118 in 38 seasons. His teams have won 23 section titles and 11 state titles.

“I need another old guy with me,” McKnight said when told Azzam also would be coming back.

Azzam has been Westchester’s coach since 1980. Over 41 seasons, he’s 921-285 with 15 City Section titles, including winning one this last season over rival Fairfax.

Azzam said he evaluated on a yearly basis whether to return and acknowledged the uncertainty around the upcoming basketball season as a result of the virus.


“We’ll see what the school year looks like and what the season looks like,” he said.

He said he’d told assistant coach Brian Henderson not to schedule any out-of-state games that would require flying but that a trip to Las Vegas was still possible.

The big question for all high school basketball teams in Southern California is when the season might be played. Christmas tournaments could be in jeopardy if the season doesn’t start until February.

Like his players, McKnight has been doing some work on his own fitness during the shutdown. He noted that he was feeling good after having lost 53 pounds since January. And he wouldn’t mind losing another 25.